Planning and Practice Are the Keys.
Emergency drills are one of the most important ways to be prepared. You’ve worked hard to have all your food storage, emergency plans, and bug out kits together, but it mean little if you haven’t practiced enough to put them into action.
We all remember the fire drills from grade school days. Everyone calmly exited the building, your teacher guided you down the hall, and you continued to chat with your friends over the piercing scream of alarms. Yes, we were conditioned to act in a disaster… like we were going out for a loud and boring recess.
Emergency drills help make something instinctive and natural that would otherwise require direction and thinking. Having regular effective emergency drills replaces panic and fear with a reflex for action, it’s the glue that holds all our other preparations together.
I remember well having a bomb scare in high school. The only reason we knew it was actually a bomb threat was our teacher FREAKED out. No one told her there was going to be a drill that day, therefore, it was REAL. Everyone else’s reaction was calm. “A bomb threat cool, do you think we’ll get to go home early? So what did you do last night?” There was a calm exit (minus the teacher), but shouldn’t we have been a little more affected?
Contrast this with a good friend who decided to give her cub scouts a real drill. The alarms went off, the lights went out, and those well-trained kids made my teacher’s reaction look sane! She said it was total chaos and even though she had told them they would be doing a fire drill, they had not been conditioned to react under real circumstances.
This is also why the military requires soldiers to go through boot camp, then continue to condition them under real circumstances. The difference between a GOOD drill and a BAD drill is the circumstances around it.
The Keys of a Good Emergency Drill
- Don’t just drill for fires, have earthquake and tornado evacuations too. Teach the principle and make it a race. Be specific to the disasters you are at risk for – emergency drills should cover all the disasters that are specific to your area.
- Regular review– Pop quiz! Every good emergency drill should have a review on what will happen and what everyone should do. You can use a specific disaster fact sheet from NFPA, just be sure to go over what needs to happen to be safe. The Great ShakeOut has aa earthquake planning guide and lots of help in planning your super emergency drill. We have done our review during family night and as a quiz as we are taking a drive. The kids make a game of it.
- Review your family emergency plan – this is one area that my school had right. They always gave specific directions of their route, and where they would meet and what they would do when they got there. Emergency drills are great for putting your plan into action and to make sure that it works for different situations. No plan means chaos.
- Do monthly emergency drills- Review what to do at the beginning of the month and warn them – this month we will have an earthquake drill (other chosen disaster). Always make them spontaneous.
- Disasters don’t respect your time or schedule, neither should your emergency drills. Night time drills are especially important. Most kids probably think a disaster will only hit between the hours of 9 and 3, and somewhere close to the end of the month. Remember we are conditioning for REAL conditions. This includes weather conditions too.
- Simulate the disaster as closely as possible. One of my favorite things about the family emergency plan is that you can download an audio recording from their site to play during the drill! Genius! No one realizes that disasters aren’t quiet and the loudest thing won’t be the fire alarms. Like I mentioned earlier, hit the lights. There will be no power in a disaster and we need to be prepared to react in the dark. Besides, there is something about having the power go out that seems to make things a little more serious. Serious in this case is GOOD. If possible shake the furniture if you have kids. They need to understand in an earthquake, things will be moving, and the importance of holding on for dear life.
- After the emergency drill is over conduct an evaluation. How did your plan work? What took you by surprise? Discuss the conditions were you not able to simulate, so everyone is aware and prepared for them in a real disaster. What changes do you need to make to your emergency plan? What were some hazards that were around you (heavy furniture that would have fallen in an earthquake, etc) and how can your remedy these? How are you feeling? What would be the next step, if this was a real disaster?
Evaluation is perhaps the MOST important part of an emergency drill. If you never test it and evaluate it, then you can’t fix potential problems, and you run the risk of making a habit of incorrect reflexes. This is something that no one can afford in a disaster. Practice makes perfect.
Have a Disaster Weekend
Want to really test yourself and your family? Do a disaster weekend. This is a drill on steroids. As a family, or with friends, plan a weekend and stage a disaster. I recommend this as part of your
It can be part of your 72-hour kit rotation schedule. For one weekend you will live in the aftermath of a disaster. Pick your disaster and the weekend (in case you need to get work off and to avoid missing events). Use the disaster fact sheets and your emergency plan, to review and plan the weekend. Live off your kits, whether sheltering in place or in the
Live off your 72-hour kits for the weekend. You can shelter in your house, go camping in the wilderness, or evacuate to a friend’s house (with their approval of course). Remember, a drill with no electricity is going to be most effective. After the weekend is over review your plan, update your kits, and evaluate how it all went. Then decide what you would do differently if there really was a disaster.
Having regular effective emergency drills replaces panic and fear with a reflex for action. These drills can make our preparations, and planning, instinctive and natural, cutting down on the panic that may be around you. Do you have regular emergency drills? We’d love to hear your stories int he comments below.